Rooney Wins Councilor Seat by Five Votes; Ross Calls For Recount

Pamela Rooney

Pam Rooney, candidate for District 4 Councilor leads incumbent Evan Ross by five votes (478 to 473) after almost 50 ballots that had been left out of the unofficial results posted on election night were counted. The second District 4 seat was won by Anika Lopes, whose vote count now stands at 594.

Reached by email on Friday (11/12), Town Clerk Sue Audette said that District 4 had three groups of extra ballots added to the machine-cast ballots from election night, and one overseas ballot remains to be counted.  The extra ballots break down as follows:

  • Provisional ballot:  1 additional vote for Pamela Rooney
  • Auxiliary bin ballots:  21 additional votes for Evan Ross, 22 additional votes for Pamela Rooney, and 25 additional votes for Anika Lopes
  • Hand-counted ballots:  1 additional vote for Evan Ross, 1 additional vote for Pamela Rooney, and 1 additional vote for Anika Lopes.

In the Town Room at Town Hall on Monday (11/8), almost a week after the election, 24 people were present for the hand-counting of 17 mail-in ballots that had been deposited in the drop box on Main Street. Audette said that the drop box had been emptied at 8 p.m. on election night, however, there was what she characterized as “an oversight” and the ballots were put in a vault in the clerk’s office without being counted. “They should have been counted in the town clerk’s office on election night,” Audette said.

Among the attendees on Monday were Audette, Assistant Clerk Amber Martin, Town Attorney Gregg Corbo, Police Captain Gabriel Ting, Registrars Demetria Shabazz and Jacqueline Gardner, as well as Rooney and Ross. A number of observers and reporters were also present. Two poll workers conducted the opening, reading and tallying of the outstanding ballots. 

The most consequential of the 17 ballots were two from District 4 where, according to the unofficial results posted on election night, Rooney won the second seat by a margin of three votes (454 to 451). Of the two ballots, Rooney and Ross each claimed one additional vote, maintaining the three vote differential in favor of Rooney.The remaining ballots counted on Monday were from precincts 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8, and were not sufficient in number to impact the results in any other races.

Also not included in the initial results were “auxiliary” ballots, which means they could not be read by machine and were hand-counted in subsequent days. 

In addition to the counting of the 17 ballots on Monday, Audette opened election ballot transfer boxes from three separate precincts where she said election materials had been mistakenly locked inside on election night. No additional ballots were among the materials. “When you’re tired at the end of the night, people make mistakes,” Audette said.

Local attorney Carol Gray asked Audette for the chain of custody of the 17 mail-in ballots, which refers to the paper trail that documents the transfer of election materials from one person or place to the next, but was rebuffed by Attorney Corbo. “That’s not what we’re here for today,” Corbo said. Following up on Gray’s question, Nancy Sardeson, who worked as a voting rights attorney for many years, asked that there be an opportunity at some point “to talk about what happened and to figure out how we can stop something like this from happening again.” Sardeson reiterated the request for a copy of the chain of custody log, which Audette said she would provide.

Gray asked Audette if anything like this had ever happened in Amherst before but Corbo interjected and instructed Audette not to answer.

Ross has filed signature papers for a recount, the time and place of which will be determined by the Board of Registrars and will be supervised by an attorney from KP Law.

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3 thoughts on “Rooney Wins Councilor Seat by Five Votes; Ross Calls For Recount

  1. Update: The one overseas District 4 ballot that was counted this morning (Monday 11/15) added 1 additional vote for Pam Rooney. The final margin is Rooney six votes ahead of Evan Ross.
    The District 4 recount is scheduled for 10am on Tuesday 11/23 in the Bangs Center.

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